A Corrupt and Scandalous Faith

By Joe E. Holman


The year was 1928. The place was Arkansas. Charles Lee Smith, President of the American Association for the Advancement of Atheism was arrested “on charges of blasphemy.” His crime? Passing out atheist tracts in a local town. After spending one night in jail, Smith was released with one charge dismissed while the other was never set for trial. Just like the famous blasphemy trial of C.B. Reynolds decades earlier, Mr. Smith was just one more victim of the American legal system, hijacked by Christianity.


The year was 1722. The date, July 8th. The place, St. Andrew’s Church in London, England. A bold, determined preacher walked up to his pulpit and delivered a heartfelt sermon entitled, “Against the Dangerous and Sinful Practice of Inoculation.” The sermon was published and became widely famous. His text, Job 2:7, “So went Satan forth from the presence of the Lord, and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot unto his crown.” His contention, that Job was suffering from Smallpox (the epidemic of the time) and yet he endured it, and therefore, so should Christians the onslaught of Smallpox in his day. The masses took this advice. Smallpox killed and maimed and ravaged hundreds of thousands of people. It spread and spread some more. The new and experimental scientific practice of inoculation was an abomination, which the preachers proclaimed, “usurped God’s providential authority.” This preacher was none other than the Rev. Edmund Massey, who pleaded from the bottom of his heart, along with scores of Catholic and Protestant church leaders everywhere, not to tolerate the “diabolical operation.” God wanted man to suffer for his sins and to endure his punishment, so said University of Cambridge’s, Reverend Ramsden no less vigorously. He and other Bostonians formed the Anti-Vaccination Society in 1798. The result, an incredible death toll among both Catholics and Protestants, particularly the Catholics, some of whom almost came to bloodshed out of the pious desire to trust in God and not let some physicians make the procedure mandatory…

“Is any sick among you? Let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:” (James 5:14)

“And Asa in the thirty and ninth year of his reign was diseased in his feet, until his disease was exceeding great: yet in his disease he sought not to the LORD, but to the physicians.” (2 Chron. 16:12)

So there you have it – God does not recommend amoxicillin! It is not hard to see what God wants us to do when we’re sick. Very few dissenting voices expressed themselves, until later when yet a greater number of lives were lost because of this foolish zeal.


February 17, 1600. Giordano Bruno, an Italian philosopher, astronomer, ex-priest, and freethinker, was burned at the stake for the crime of heresy. His Copernicanism, Arianism, his contentions that all churches should tolerate their schismatic disagreements, along with his somewhat materialistic beliefs that the universe was infinite and contained many worlds, could not be tolerated. He really crossed the line when he decided Jesus was nothing more than a skillful magician! Talking like that back then would get you killed. Bruno’s defiance and distinct individuality made him seas of enemies. On May 22, 1592, he was arrested, and by January of 1593, his trial, which lasted almost 7 years, began. He was tortured and delivered up to be killed, repudiating images of the cross along the way. Lest any be seduced by his heretical words, a large spike was driven through his jaw, just after proclaiming his last words. He then painfully awaited his silent consummation by fire. Giordano was a man bigger than the time in which he lived. The world was not worthy.


The year was 1553. On October 27th, Michael Servetus was burned at the stake for the crime of heresy. He committed serious “crimes,” disbelieving in the trinity, dabbling in astrology, and denying the need and validity of the practice of infant baptism. His irate, argumentative tone, much like Bruno, made him plenty of enemies among both Protestants and Catholics. Having been burned in effigy after escaping from Roman authorities in Vienna, he fled to Geneva where he was spotted by reformer, John Calvin, who had vowed to God that the heretic, Servetus, would not leave the city alive! True to Calvin’s vow, it was not the Catholics who killed him, but the Geneva Council, who decided he should meet his maker by way of the flames.

The impenitent, stubborn Servetus soon lost his pride as the slow-burning flames engulfed his body. Blood curdling screams for mercy were rumored to be heard throughout the crowd of onlookers, and thus, ended the legacy of a brilliant mathematician and quite able physician.

Corrupt and scandalous

It does not take Solomonic wisdom to detect my running theme -- that Christianity is an albatross to humankind, this small list being scarcely a microscopic fraction of what could be cited to prove the point. It should be noted that these are modern and not-so-modern examples of Christian oppression. They emanate from Catholic and Protestant groups, and therefore, cannot be so easily wept under the rug of willful ignorance by suggesting that the above examples were merely the result of “false Christianity.” For centuries, believers have been disagreeing with each other, telling each other that they are wrong on this and that, and therein lies the problem when a believer tries to deny that Group X is a “True Christian” group, but not Group Y. The dispute on what constitutes “genuine” Christianity is as unsolvable a puzzle as partisan politics.

Christianity is not a religion of progress, nor is it a religion of open-mindedness. It does not tolerate, nor appreciate free inquiry. It condemns it outright (I Timothy 6:20-21). It sets up the classic clergy-laity system by setting up few as teachers (See James 3:1) and the rest as dumbbells, members who sit like wooden Indians and take in what their spiritual leaders tell them. Like the ancient mystery cults, which were so common in New Testament times and before, Christianity claims infallibility and thereby vilifies everyone and every school of thought to disagree with it…

“If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha.” (I Cor. 16:22)

“If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.” (2 John 1:10-11)

Without the aide of an evolving, progressive culture, Christianity would still have us in the dark ages, prattling off the pious nonsense of Tertullian…

“The sentence of God on this sex of yours lives in this age: the guilt must of necessity live too. You are the devil's gateway: you are the unsealer of that (forbidden) tree: you are the first deserter of the divine law: you are she who persuaded him whom the devil was not valiant enough to attack. You destroyed so easily God's image, man. On account of your desert-that is, death-even the Son of God had to die.”
- Tertullian, “On Women and Fallen Angels,” Book I

Without the aide of an evolving, progressive culture, Christianity would still have us forbidding surgery lest we defile a dead body and dishonor God. Mankind would have no doubt progressed medically beyond where we are today had we had access to biological experimentation 700 years ago. But in exchange for life-saving medical advances, we are given the sanctified decisions of church councils. In 1299 A.D., Pope Boniface VIII issued a papal bull that decreed the penalties for anyone with the ungodly gall to dissect a corpse -- excommunication and possible imprisonment. The hurt that this has done to the fields of anatomy and biology is quite incalculable, but I’m sure Boniface felt more than justified in this move and even felt he could support it with the Bible…

“Thus saith the LORD; For three transgressions of Moab, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because he burned the bones of the king of Edom into lime:” (Amos 2:1)

Christianity produces intolerance and suspicion and a dreaded, undying fear of change. As we have seen, it opposes science, it opposes medicine, it opposes logic, and even common sense. It makes man’s way difficult, burdened down with needless concerns and worries. It lays at the feet of society an alarmist mentality of spotting trouble where there is none and always being ready to reject sensible solutions to problems. These handful of examples, if nothing else, show us that when mankind is morally motivated and indoctrinated by a religion that claims to be “infallible truth,” the tendency to bind those “truths” on others always ends up being hurtful.

I find it interesting how Christians will so readily site Newton and Galileo as examples of Christians demonstrating scientific refinement, and then silently gloss over the long, cold, dark years of bibles being chained to pulpits, women being forced into convents, the mentally ill being locked up and tortured for fear of their being possessed, and forbidding marriages in local towns because of expressed defiance from the common people. The Church expressed her complete contentment with the “Earth, Wind, Fire, and Water” theory of elements as taught by the ancient Greeks, until the likes of Priestly and Scheele came along and set us straight on the matter with the groundbreaking discovery of oxygen. Christians are every bit as capable of anything everyone else is, but my question is, if Christianity promotes science and free inquiry, why did it take Christianity many centuries to produce only a handful of great thinkers? The answer is, it didn’t. Christianity has never directly produced a single freethinker. Mankind was finally breaking away from the stranglehold that the infamously oppressive Catholic Church had on the world, and with that came flourishing minds who could begin to experiment and question and think on their own without fear of the guillotine (or as much fear of it, at least). As the Church began to lose grip of the world, slowly but surely, objective learning could once again be exercised. Christianity remained, by far, the most dominant religion throughout Europe, so it would be a shock if at least some scientists and thinkers were not of the Christian Faith. But those good scientific minds were scientists and Christians – they were not scientists because they were Christians. We cannot give credit where credit is not due.

Christianity, unleashed on the world, has done many terrible things throughout the ages, far outweighing any good it managed to accomplish. Only when faith in the church’s infallible dogmas began to decline did we see increases in liberty. Today, the church contains only a glimmer of her former, snarling, mad dog image. To make better inroads infiltrating societies, she now uses the stealth approach.

This, however, is the freethinker’s perspective. It is not the believer’s perspective. The proud, white, middle-class, Protestant of today is utterly perplexed at how the freethought movement could dare suggest that Christianity is a vice against humanity. They live in their own Christianized world and attribute every little semblance of pleasantness and decency to their God. Christianity takes credit for everything even remotely good and runs away, like a caught-cheating husband, from any hint of bad publicity. As Woolsey Teller so eloquently put it…

“But leave it to Christianity to bedeck itself in stolen plumage. After blocking the cultural progress of the world for hundreds of years, it now poses as the champion of civilization, when, in plain truth, its behavior has been like that of the chameleon, changing colors and blending with the background whenever it is expedient. Let a people gather a few crumbs of culture in spite of Christianity and Christianity will claim the credit.

Christianity upheld slavery for over a thousand years, yet no sooner was emancipation achieved than it posed as "the black man's friend". It spat on woman suffrage, then, when woman's rights were won, it posed as the "liberator" of women. It fought tooth and nail the doctrine of evolution, but now assures us (from "liberal" pulpits, at least) that there never was any "real" conflict between science and religion. It opposed anesthesia in child-birth; it now proclaims it as God's "gift" to womankind. Before the war, it worshiped "the Prince of Peace"; it is now singing the song, "Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition.”
- Woolsey Teller, Essays of an Atheist, “Chameleonic Christianity.”

This is why Christianity stands condemned in the council of freethinking humanity as a mischievous trespasser, a migrant troublemaker, stirring up ruckus and unrest everywhere she goes. With useless regulations and hindrances, it does nothing but crush the life out of an observant, budding, and experimental society. Like a cruel, dry, second grade teacher who berates her students for innocently choosing to color and doodle outside of the lines, Christianity is a detriment to the progress of any society. Christianity operates by manipulation, befriending the mighty, seizing their power, and when finished using them, casting them out like spoiled goods. Just like a crooked, but sharply-dressed, well-poised politician, Christianity vainly points to a bright, appealing future, replete with promises of a Utopian tomorrow, while cleverly maneuvering their believers to keep from noticing the plentitude of horrendous injustices, allegations, and scandals of the past.

First posted 3/6/06